Although you might not think it, Nepal and the United Kingdom have some things in common - difficulties in getting a Government together which all of the population are happy with is one of them. My last few days in Nepal were spent in a capital city (Kathmandu) where, apart from a couple of hours every evening, everything was shut. In order to try and remove the current Prime Minister, the Maoists (a communist party with a paramilitary wing, many of whom seem to wear Liverpool shirts, incidentally) called an indefinite general strike. Although they seemed to be ok with tourists, if shops open or taxis run then generally they get their windows put through. Not a particularly democratic way of doing things, and there asn't much to do, hence a slightly earlier flight out to the Middle East. Boring that is, except for the Maoists' torch-led processions through the city. And also for the impromptu games of cricket in the street. These games had umpires, their own set of rules, reverse sweeps, switch hitting, the lot.....It felt like a very English response to the strike.
I did still find time for a few other adventures before leaving Nepal. A few recovery days in Pokhara (after the trekking), a rafting trip down the Seti River (although not too much white water was involved) and a night 'on safari' at the Royal Chitwan National Park. Only stayed there one night because of the strike, but did manage a ride on an elephant and saw a couple of Rhinos as well. In case you didn't know, Nepal has one of the worst road networks (and safety records) in the world. Hence a nightmare 15 hour bus ride (setting off at 9 am and arriving around midnight) back from Royal Chitwan when it should have been about 5 hours. Caused by numerous breakdowns/crashes and the heavy traffic in and out of Kathmandu, resulting from Maoist-generated chaos and security-checks etc. Never have I been so glad to see a hotel bed as I was that night.
So that was the rest of Nepal.......
Contrary to popular beliefs, the Middle East is a very safe to be, certainly on the basis of my experience so far. Its also probably the friendliest place I've been so far. 'Welcome' is a word you'll often hear in the country of Jordan, where I had a short stay, finding time for a couple of days in Amman and then a road trip down to Petra, stopping to take photos of the stunning desert scenery along the way. Petra, the red rose city created by the Nabbateans (not sure about the spelling) and, later the Romans, was definitely the highlight. Although watching Indiana Jones as a child got me interested in the place, there is so much more to see and explore than the bit shown in the Last Crusade. One of the best bits of the trip so far and hopefully I'll return one day.
I'm now in Israel, staying with relatives in the town of Netanya, just north of Tel Aviv. It takes a bit of getting used to, seeing young soldiers with large machine guns (complete with ammo) walking around the place, and on public buses etc. But along with all the security checks it makes you feel very safe. There is more to see here than I originally thought, and I'm sure I will come back again another time, but the highlight has to be Jerusalem. Even if you're not particularly religous, there is so much historical interest here (not to mention panaramic views) to make it worthwhile to anyone. I thought York had seen a few invading armies but it doesn't compete with this place. As well as Jerusalem, though, both the Meditterrean and Red Sea coastlines are beautiful, with not a cloud in sight to spoil the views. And its been great to see members of the family I'd never met before.
Less than a week to go now, sad times..... But I've got one last stop along the way, in Cairo, before I fly back. British Airways cabin crew could have timed their impending strike better, but I should be able to get back from Cairo one way or the other. Hopefully the weather will be better in the UK than when I left home!